Governor Scott Walker has taken Iowa Republicans by storm. In the span of just a couple months, Walker has gone from a potential candidate who everyone seemed to like, to the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican caucuses. By every indicator available – buzz, staff hires, endorsement, or poll numbers – Walker is the lead horse in the Iowa caucus race.
Walker’s campaign in Iowa is moving so fast that it will make your head spin. But that’s not all that is moving at a fast pace for Walker. Some of his long held positions seem to be on the move lately as well. In the span of just a few weeks, Walker has apparently flip-flopped on a number of issues.
On the issue of immigration reform, Walker reversed his position and now doesn’t support a pathway to citizenship like he said he did in 2013. On Monday, Walker signed into law right-to-work legislation despite saying in 2012, “I have no interest in a right-to-work law in this state.” But immigration and right-to-work are not the only issues one which Walker has reversed his position lately. The pro-Renewable Fuels Standard position that he took at the Iowa Ag Summit is also new.
Mitt Romney was labeled as a flip-flopper because he changed his position on abortion (another issue Walker has received grief about lately) in advance of running for president in 2008, but Walker is making Romney look like a model of consistency.
On Saturday, Walker responded to a question about the Renewable Fuels Standard at the Iowa Ag Summit by saying, “It’s an access issue, and so it’s something I’m willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure there’s certainty in terms of the blend levels set.”
Walker’s answer was music to the ears of the pro-ethanol people in the crowd, but it caught some people by surprise. Trudy Hannam, a Wisconsin resident, emailed TheIowaRepublican.com saying, “He is the biggest flip flopper you will ever find. He tried to get a bill passed to avoid ethanol in our gas, and in your state, is supporting it.”
Hannam is correct. In 1999, Walker sponsored legislation requesting that Congress grant Wisconsin a waiver from the requirement to use reformulated gasoline. In fact, Walker has quite an extensive history of opposing ethanol. He also opposed a bill in 2006 that would have required a 10 percent ethanol blend in some fuels.
Just a couple months ago, Walker refused to even take a position on Renewable Fuels Standard.
The Associated Press reported, “Walker says since he has not officially declared as a candidate for president, he has not ‘gotten into that.’ Walker says should he run for president, “I probably would have to take a stand on it but I’m not right now.”
The Wisconsin Journal Sentinel also reported on Walker’s January comments in which he said, “That’s something that, should I be a candidate in the future, I probably would have to take a stand. But I’m not right now.”
It’s not like Walker had never taken a position on ethanol related issues before, in a 2006 gubernatorial primary debate, “Walker said he would not support an ethanol mandate and would not sign one if it got to his desk as governor.” In the same campaign, Walker stated that ethanol mandates are “fundamentally wrong.” Walker even ran radio ads in his 2006 gubernatorial campaign stating, “The free enterprise system must drive innovation to relieve our dependence on foreign oil, not mandates from the state or federal government.” Walker repeatedly attacked his primary opponent for supporting an ethanol mandate in 2006, but as he prepares to run for president in 2016, Walker seems to be taking the same position he previously criticized.
Walker’s new-found support of the Renewable Fuels Standard, like his new passion on immigration, sets him up perfectly to draw distinctions between himself and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Coming into the race, Bush and Walker had nearly identical positions, but by supporting the RFS and opposing immigration reforms, Walker is now positioned nicely for an Iowa campaign.
The only problem is that, by changing his position on renewable fuels and immigration, it raises questions about what Walker actually believes. Candidates like Bush and Lindsey Graham have come to Iowa and stood firmly behind their positions on tough issues like immigration. Likewise, Senator Ted Cruz wasn’t afraid to articulate his opposition to the Renewable Fuels Standard at the Iowa Ag Summit on Saturday.
Those candidates should be commended for at least being honest with Iowans on issues. Walker, on the other hand, must now explain his conversion on those issues. It’s one thing to state a position that you know will be popular in a room of farmers. It’s another thing to explain how you can be totally opposed to the ethanol industry while running for governor, but be in lock step with the same industry when you run for president ten years later.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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